Dunedin’s neighborhoods are one of the attractions that enhance the ambience of our community. There are many historic bungalows and pre-1930s homes that line the streets throughout the city, and many of these homes are lined with the original red brick roads when these homes were built.
The history of brick streets goes way back in American history. There were some early colonial brick roads, but many were haphazardly built. The first designed brick-paved streets in America were done in Charleston, West Virginia in 1873. The inventor was Mordecai Levi, who tried tackling the job of solving the problems of muddy roads.
By the 1870s, Dunedin had limited streets and all were basically dirt rutted roads full of wagon wheel tracks and usually muddy after it rained. When bricks came into use in Dunedin, most of them were made by the Atlanta Brick Co. and shipped to Dunedin by flat boat or on the railroad.
By the late 1880s, competitive brick companies in Tampa would also supply and construct roads in Dunedin and West Hillsborough County. Bricks were usually made of molded clay and then heated in high-temperature ovens until they hardened to a stone finish. If you look at bricks made around this time period, you would notice the etched company names on top of the bricks, which are now becoming collectable artifacts.
Before the bricks were installed, a bottom layer of sand or clay was put in first to help absorb water from rain and also to form an even level in the streets. Potholes would still occur when bricks cracked or settled in the sand over time. At that point a new layer of sand would be installed with a new set of bricks to fill in the holes.
As the town of Dunedin grew so did the need to increase improved road service. In 1912, the area originally known as West Hillsborough separated from Hillsborough County and officials decided to build a brick road that would travel from St. Petersburgh to Tarpon Springs, which made up the borders of the new county. This road would be known as the original County Road 1.
The county road followed through Dunedin, starting at the entrance of Edgewater Drive through downtown Dunedin and up to the present CR1/Keene Road turnoff and then going down to Sutherland or Palm Harbor today. The road consisted of standard-size bricks and was approximately 12 feet wide. This road was the main county road well into the 1940s.
Before the 1920s, many of the streets in the downtown area of Dunedin were paved bricks. Some of the streets included Scotland, Wood, and Wilkie, all centering on the downtown core of the community. In the late 1920s, with Dunedin becoming a city instead of a town, city officials approved the paving of more bricks streets, especially for E.S. Frischkorn’s new housing complex known as Dunedin Isle. Frischkorn invested in the building of paved brick roads to enhance the look of his new Spanish Mediterranean homes. New roadways such as Rowena Lane, San Jose Drive, Pasadena Drive, Mira Vista Drive and Santa Barbara Drive were all bricked-lined streets.
Within time, Dunedin’s city officials started to realize the maintenance issues that occurred with paved brick roads and the standard policy with city roads were to just gravel and tar them. One of the earliest roads to pave over the bricks was Edgewater Drive and Main Street. In the 1990s, city officials discussed the future of its paved roads and the general consensus was that the remaining brick roads would be maintained, but work would be spread out over a longer period of time for financial reasons and reduced road closures.
Brick roads are still very popular with our residents and Dunedin continues to maintain the brick roads that exist. The newest brick road in Dunedin will be around the area of the new City Hall and Louden Avenue. According to Deputy City Manager Jorge Quintas, the city is also discussing plans for work on Santa Barbara Drive.
If you want to see one of the earliest samples of bricks that were used for Dunedin roads, make sure you stop by the Dunedin History Museum. This article is dedicated to Dunedin resident Ralph Shenefelt, who has become the guardian of paved brick streets of Dunedin.
Vinnie Luisi is director of the Dunedin History Museum.